Blindsight

Blindsight

Book - 2006
Average Rating:
13
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Two months have past since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since - until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who should we send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn't want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can't feel his own flesh.Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find - but you'd give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them...
Publisher: New York : Tor, 2006
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780765319647
0765319640
9780765312181
0765312182
Branch Call Number: FIC SF
Characteristics: 384 p. ; 22 cm

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c
callig
Apr 15, 2018

BLINDSIGHT

The title refers to the neurological condition in which ones eyes, and most of the brains visual processing modules work, but a final connection to consciousness doesn't. So the person consciously sees nothing, but unconsciously still does, avoids dangers, flinches at sudden movement etc.
Watts contends that this essential mechanism summarizes most of our lives, and that we limit ourselves by denying most of reality that we can't consciously explain. (I didn't hear that twig snap, or see that flash of orange striped fur in the bushes- nossir!)
First Contact with aliens is a metaphor for anything new that we subliminally sense but fear and deny. I'm surprised he didn't mention the split-brain cases in which severe epilepetic seizures were stopped by severing the corpus collosum, leaving the individual two half-persons in one skull. Surprisingly, he only footnotes Libet's research

This novel resembles a recasting of Solaris, another classic morality play (the Faustian bargain: the devil promises Narcissian serenity at the cost of drowning).
This is classic science-fiction: a demonstration of theory through docu-drama. The theories of Mr. Watts are as complex as his sock-puppet characters are crude: individual players are walking avatars of archetypal roles, like Star Treks diffraction of human preoccupations into Ferengi greed, Klingon aggressiveness, Vulcan intellectualism etc. It also works well as an acid satire on t he pitfalls of specialism (schizophrenic fragmentation in which nobody can see the whole picture).
Enough already!? I could rant on, as it's hard to review a thought-provoking book briefly! It's dense- far more the standard humans-in "lumpy-faced" alien drag as Watts jibes.
You may disagree with the author's conclusions, but so what? The value of his novel is that it forces thought, and that, surely, is the ultimate purpose of any book?!
Heart of Darkness meets Solaris!
Read it already- if only for the fun rant on pages 301 to 304.

f
Flatcoatsmith
Apr 15, 2016

Few books can be called an epiphany that permanently alters both your world-view and your own self-image . Watts' books should be read for as long as individual identity may endure. I have read science fiction for over 50 years and BLINDSIGHT was the one first-contact story that was challenging, entertaining, and ultimately - chilled me to the bone! Enjoy. (When you are ready for more, ECHOPRAXIA awaits.)

g
gendeg
Jan 10, 2015

On the surface Blindsight by Peter Watts seems like your standard first contact science fiction story with just a weirder cast of characters, but there is nothing ordinary or formulaic about this book. I was completely blown away by how deftly Watts blends the science and philosophy together—really, the blurring of cognition and consciousness—into vivid storytelling. It was weird. It was profound. I'm still reeling.

I enjoy science fiction, but I've always been the kind of fan that was more into Star Trek or literary works casually inflected with science fiction, than deep forays into the genre. Blindsight is totally hard-core, and I almost gave up in the early chapters. Passages dense with terminology abound; the author even includes a wonderfully recondite 18-page appendix at the back of the book on the technical aspects covered. Yes, serious stuff. But I hope this won't turn people away. It's a common snub to think about stories built on a science-heavy framework as cold and inaccessible, that they are devoid of poetry and emotion and pageantry. But Blindsight has all these things. As Elizabeth Bear put it (Tor.com), "his work is rigorous, unsentimental, and full of the sort of brilliant little moments of synthesis that make a nerd’s brain light up like a pinball machine. But he’s also a poet—a damned fine writer on a sentence level, who can make you feel the blank Lovecraftian indifference of the sea floor or of interplanetary space with the same ease facility with which he can pen an absolutely breathtaking passage of description."

mmhallock Oct 09, 2014

An engaging hard SF first contact novel featuring an alien lifeform far different from any other book you've read.

j
john_doh17
May 28, 2014

First encounter with strangest aliens yet. Overall I was disappointed with this book. It had a lot of potential and I really liked the parts discussing how you would know if something is conscious or if that is even important. While there are some very good parts the story was too jumbled, too much made up techno babble, and the characters were not engaging (and even confusing as to who was who or what). It seems like a stretch to have vampires and be hard sci fi to me. Show me a Vampire fossil or that whole concept is BS as far as being real science.

c
Cyborg_Kid
Jun 11, 2013

Well-written and plausible future science. Story dragged a bit; a lot of introspection and the ending disappointed. But four stars for this book, and look forward to his next one.

b
bdd
Mar 13, 2013

This book was my introduction to Peter Watts.
This guy is the real deal: a purveyor of real Hard SF. His hooks are now deeply set in my mind, and he's got me coming back for more.
The man was a real scientists and knows how to research his ideas. Not only that, but (if you really want to know) he'll spill his secrets and share with you the list of references from which he pulls and weaves his many ideas.

m
manolop3
Dec 11, 2012

If you want to read a great book that explores human psychology, fear, the nature of humanity, and the nature of the human mind, read this book. If you want to read a book about the possible mysteries of alien life, and possible transhuman life, read this book. It explores many deep and hard scientific principles. It has Aliens, but they are not E.T. It will blow your mind with its exploration of human consciousness and the human mind. If don't want to read a book like this, go read Twilight.

t
The_Mess
May 08, 2012

Hard as diamond Sci-fi, with actual biology and neuroscience, instead of the usual hand waving, and a strong, well written plot, characters and world to boot. aka typical Peter Watts. Not for those beloved of action novels and traditional sci-fi due to heavy science usage (aka jargon) and high concepts/page ratio. Make sure to read the appendix and check out Watt's website for the backmatter on his vampires too. Also all of his prior works are available for free on there.

ColemanRidge Sep 22, 2011

On the first page of Peter Watts's web site, there is this quote: "Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts." —James Nicoll. You have been warned. If you want a rollicking good time among jolly companions, rollick right on out of here. Now, here's why you should read this book anyway. It's old-school hard science fiction of the best sort. It is a novel of ideas. Specifically, the book is about why consciousness evolved when it is not necessary for any part of rational action, and, in fact, interferes with action. Watts presents two possible answers. One is the vampire Sarasti, who is not at all conscious and is nevertheless perfectly alert, intelligent, and efficient. Sarasti argues that consciousness is an evolutionary accident, and on its way out. The other possible answer is the soldier Amanda Bates, who is conscious, conscientious, and as a result, a little bit slower than she would otherwise be.

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